Letters

During the bouts of cancer diagnosis and treatments, Rachel writes e-mails to keep her friends and family updated on her thoughts and spiritual walk.

Jars of Clay

July 27, 2004

I always thought I was a bit of a pessimist – a “glass half empty” kind of girl – but this process is making me realize quite the opposite. I’ve been going into these appointments expecting the best and not getting it: First, I thought it wasn’t cancer…and it was. Then I thought that the path report was going to be great news…and my tumour was graded a 3. Then I was hoping to get a short course of chemo…and I didn’t.

 

I had my appointment with my oncologist at the BC Cancer Centre yesterday (Monday). It was a three hour affair with meetings with a couple of nurses and two doctors. Mostly just interviews and information exchange to get a more complete medical and family history and, of course, to give me more information about what’s coming next. And what’s coming next isn’t pretty.

 

From the reading I had done I was expecting that they would recommend a course of chemo that is only 3 months (called AC) vs. a comparable course that was 6 months (CMF). I figured, I’d rather be really sick for 3 months than “kind of” sick for 6. Based on my diagnosis, I thought this was what they were going to recommend. I also knew that there was a possibility (that I thought was remote) that they would recommend the most aggressive chemo they offer (CEF) – a 6 month course that I’ve dubbed “The Bad Boy” – but because my lymph nodes were clear, I didn’t think it was likely. I thought wrong.

 

They’ve recommended The Bad Boy (CEF) because the tumour was graded a 3 and, of course, because I am so young (funnily enough, this doesn’t seem like a compliment in this situation). I am disappointed because I was really hoping that I would get the shorter course and be done before Christmas. Six months is a harder length of time to wrap my head around for some reason. It means I won’t be finished until February and will then start radiation…and then hormone therapy.

 

As for side effects, apparently everyone is different. It just depends on how you respond to the drugs. Some people sail through with no symptoms, others struggle. The most common side effects are nausea and fatigue. There are anti-nausea drugs which should prove helpful and, apparently, the nausea is much like morning sickness so I’m hoping it will be manageable (there I go being optimistic again…). The fatigue is the big one for me – especially with two little kids. I’m an “8 hour girl” who doesn’t function well without a good night’s sleep and, given that I’ve slept 8 (uninterrupted) hours only a handful of times in the past year, I feel like I’m starting this treatment at a bit of a disadvantage.

 

Of course, I will lose my hair – including eyebrows and eyelashes. It will start to grow back as soon as I’m finished treatment which, as I mentioned, will be sometime next spring so don’t expect a Barkey family picture to arrive on your doorstep this Christmas. Strangely, the realization that I will lose my eyebrows made me more sad than the thought of losing my hair. I like my eyebrows. I think they look ok and they’re low-maintenance – kind of like I strive to be. I’m hoping they don’t grow back differently.

 

So, I start chemo in two weeks. August 9th. Before then I will have a heart scan, a liver ultrasound, more blood tests, a “portocath” inserted (basically a temporary port in my shoulder where they will inject the chemo drugs rather than start an IV each time), some hereditary screening done and meet with my oncologist again. Starting to have some sympathy for lab rats. The chemo basically consists of a 4 week cycle – I take pills for two weeks and at the beginning of each week I also go in for an IV injection. Then I have a two week recovery period to let my white blood cells recover and then we do it again – 6 times.

 

After the path report I was quite down. Not because it was a terrible report but because the reality of everything hit me anew. Most of the time I am quite upbeat about the whole situation but there are moments when I want don’t want to walk down this road any further. I want my “normal life” back. Thankfully I have Neil who somehow manages to find the balance between “just listening” and reminding me of Truth, gently and with wisdom. I still don’t know how I managed to get the most amazing man I have ever met to fall in love with me.

 

So, with most of the unknowns out of the way, now all that’s left is to fight.

 

My cousin, Suzanne, sent me a great verse that I have remembered often this past week. It’s from 2 Corinthians and says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” This describes what I am learning to a tee. I realize my mortality and my complete dependance on him for everything – every breath, every moment, every penny. I may get down (especially given my newly found penchant for optimism) but I am never beaten – because He is with me.

 

He is with you too.

 

much love,
rb

One Comment

  1. I really liked this post. Can I copy it to my site? Thank you in advance.

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